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Sarah Laskow's Posts


Domesticated honeybees are giving bumblebees their dirty diseases


What happens when many, many bees visit the same flower? Well, much like with humans, if one of the bees has a disease, and the flower doesn’t use protection, it can spread the disease to other bees that visit it. According to a new study, which looked at 750 bees in 26 places in England, this is happening around the country -- domesticated honeybees are bringing "deadly diseases" with them to the flowers and wild bumblebees are catching them.

There's a possibility it might not be the honeybees’ fault. But scientists suspect it is, because honeybees are more disease-ridden. The Associated Press reports:

Study co-author Matthias Furst of the University of London said the team's research does not definitively prove the diseases are passed from honeybees to bumblebees, rather than the other way round. But the evidence points in that direction because virus levels and infection rates are higher in the honeybees, he said.

Read more: Living


This guy wants to turn a piece of the old Bay Bridge into a house

Bay Bridge House

The old Bay Bridge, from San Francisco to Oakland, is being torn down, which raises a tricky question: What do you do with 50,000 tons of pre-used steel?

The short answer is: Send it to Asia as scrap, FastCoExist says. But the fun answer is: Turn it into an awesome house. That’s what one Bay Area tech guy wants to do. We're sure there won't be any questions raised here about affordable housing and the tech industry!


The floors will have the original pavement and lane markers, and the frame of the building will be made from the giant steel beams of the bridge. In all, it's the same amount of steel that would be used to build 1,600 cars.

Read more: Cities, Living


Elephants console friends by touching their junk

sad elepahnt
Roar Petterson

Elephants, according to a new study, comfort each other when they're sad. They make sympathetic chirping sounds and put their trunks in each other's mouths. It's kind of like that super sad scene in Dumbo where his captive mom cradles him in her trunk.

Except a little bit more complicated, because grown-up elephants also touch each other's genitals.

The Los Angeles Times:

"Elephants do a lot of touching of others with their trunks. Genital touching is a way for elephants to identify others, and in this case, it may also be a way for the elephants to identify the behavioral state of the others," said co-author Joshua Plotnik, a lecturer in conservation biology at Mahidol University in Thailand and chief executive of the nonprofit Think Elephants International.

"I think the genital touching, in combination with other touches, specifically in this context, serves to reassure the other elephant," Plotnik said. "We also see the elephants put their trunks into each others' mouths, which seems to be a way of saying, 'I'm here to help you.' "

Read more: Living


Watch 40 artists turn this empty building into an illegal graffiti paradise

screenshot copy

The street artist Hanksy knew you'd be into this project. The New York Times:

After getting keys to a newly abandoned rowhouse on East Fourth Street, he invited several dozen street artists and graffiti writers to paint the vacant apartments. The collaboration, which he called Surplus Candy, was illegal and somewhat secret -- exactly the combination that would produce page views. ...

“You throw in a couple of keywords -- East Village, illegal, street art -- people will run with that,” he said.

But, hey, what can we say? We think illegal street art projects in the East Village are cool. At least, this one certainly is:

Read more: Cities, Living


America could have been a nation of hippopotamus eaters

Ray Muzyka

The journalist Jon Mooallem has an exceptional talent for writing about strange animal stories, and his new story (on This American Life and in a e-book for the Atavist) is really surprising: Turns out that early in the last century, two guys thought it would be a great idea for Americans to farm hippopotamus meat.

Mooallem writes in his Atavist story:

The idea was to import hippopotamuses from Africa, set them in the swamplands along the Gulf Coast, and raise them for food. The idea was to turn America into a nation of hippo ranchers. …

One Agricultural Department official estimated that an armada of free-range hippos, set moping through the bayous of Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana, would easily yield a million tons of meat a year. …

Apparently, the animals tasted pretty good, too, especially the fatty brisket part, which could be cured into a delicacy that a supportive New York Times editorial was calling, euphemistically, “lake cow bacon.”

One booster apparently tried to influence reporters by feeding them hippo jerky.

Part of the problem was that, unlike now, Americans weren't eating enough meat, and they needed a new source, one that wouldn't take up prime farming land.

Read more: Food, Living


Russia could build a train that would connect New York to Paris

Amazing Maps posted this, uh, amazing map of a cross-Bering rail connection:

It seems like a fanciful idea -- a bridge or a tunnel linking Russia and the United States. And people have been tossing the concept around, without actually doing anything about it, for a long long time. Czar Nicholas II, for instance, thought it was a good idea … in 1905.

But there's a slim chance it could happen this time.


Finnish reindeer now have glowing antlers to protect them from cars

Via Reddit

Like deer in the American Northeast, reindeer in Finland are prone to walking onto the road and causing accidents. But, unlike wild American deer, Finnish reindeer actually belong to reindeer herders, who'd like to keep them alive. So the herders are painting their deer's antlers with a coating that makes them glow in the dark. Bonus: Now ANYONE can guide the sleigh!

Gizmodo explains:

The idea of outfitting reindeer with reflective devices has been around in Scandinavia for years. There, reindeer are bred and kept on farms much like cows are in the United States. So the reflectors aren't just helping keep the reindeer safe, they also help herders keep track of their animals. However, as car accidents involving reindeer have been on the rise, the Finnish herders are taking it to the next level with this new coating idea.

And a Reddit commenter explains why this is necessary at all:

Reindeer are not hunted, but while they roam freely for most of the year, they are owned like cattle.

Read more: Living


Scientists can now spy on whales from space


There are two ways of looking at this story. One is as a triumph of new technology: Using high-resolution satellites, scientists can identify and track whales without disturbing them in any way. The other is as a tale of space voyeurism: Scientists are spying on whales from the sky. And not just spying on whales -- spying on whales while there was a good chance the whales were doing it.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

The traditional way to track whale populations is standing on a bridge of a ship and looking out into the ocean, or gliding over the water in an airplane….

For this study, Fretwell and his colleagues purchased a single, massive image taken in September 2012 by the WorldView2 satellite. The image covers 70 square miles including Golfo Nuevo, a circular gulf off the Argentine coast and an area where southern right whales are known to breed and raise their young from July through November.


These endangered animals want to help you set the mood with their sexy mating calls

Hopefully by now you have used these flirting tips to attract yourself a potential mate. Now, you need to set the mood in your love nest. Might we suggest this oh-so-sexy video that the Center for Biological Diversity put together of endangered animals making their mating calls?

Read more: Living


It hasn’t rained this much in England in 248 years

Colin Haycock

England is known as a rainy place. But the incredible spate of storms and flooding that have knocked out parts of the rail system, turn the lights off, washed away part of the coast, and depressed the hell out of penguins are not normal. According to ClimateWire, the Met office, which covers U.K. climate and weather, reported this week that it hasn’t been this rainy since the 1700s:

"For England and Wales this was one of, if not the most, exceptional periods of winter rainfall in at least 248 years."

So, is this weird weather we should connect to climate change? Or weird weather that has no explanation? The short version:

"All the evidence suggests there is a link to climate change."

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living